You’ve probably heard of blubber, but I bet you’ve never stuck your hand inside a bag of it. But that’s what I made my children do as part of an experiment for Antarctica Week.
The Blubber Glove experiment (courtesy of the Spangler Science Labs) uses ice water and a bag filled with shortening (filling in for actual blubber) to show how those penguins and seals in Antarctica survive subfreezing air temperatures and frigid water.
Here’s a quick summary of what we did. It’s easy to do and it really works!
The first step is to fill a bucket half-full of water and ice to simulate the water surrounding Antarctica. I used a clear container for easier viewing, but to be honest it didn’t really matter. So any container would work just fine.
The next step is to prepare the Blubber Glove. Put a cup or two of vegetable shortening in a large, sealable plastic bag. I discovered that a small tub contains enough shortening for this experiment, so you don’t have to buy the jumbo size like I did. Unless you want to.
Next, put the second bag (empty) into the first bag and smear shortening all over the bottom two-thirds of it (enough to cover your hand). Then fold the top of the inside bag over the outside bag and duct tape it together so the shortening won’t squeeze out.
And now place your hand inside the Blubber Glove and submerge it in the freezing cold water.
The kids were amazed that their hands stayed warm inside the Blubber Glove. But to make sure the bag didn’t have anything to do with providing significant insulation, they each tried submerging their hands in only a Ziploc bag.
I don’t think I need to explain the result!
You can go here for more details about the science behind the experiment, plus you can get a list of other materials to test to see if you want to see which insulators work best.